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Johnson v. Joyner

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

May 31, 2016

Bernard Johnson, #297693, Petitioner,
v.
Warden Joyner, South Carolina Department of Corrections, Respondent.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          SHIVA V. HODGES, Magistrate Judge.

         Bernard Johnson ("Petitioner"), proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, is an inmate incarcerated in the Palmer Pre-Release Center in the custody of the South Carolina Department of Corrections ("SCDC"). He submitted this petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civ. Rule 73.02(B)(2)(c) (D.S.C.), the undersigned is authorized to review such petitions for relief and submit findings and recommendations to the district judge. For the reasons that follow, the undersigned recommends that the district judge dismiss the petition in this case without prejudice.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Petitioner alleges he did not receive a credit for the seven months he served in jail. [ECF No. 1]. Petitioner states he did not file a grievance or appeal regarding this sentencing calculation error. Id. at 6. Instead, Petitioner claims he "conferred with SCDC state classification and various other personnel in an effort to remedy" the failure to give him sentencing credit, but "no decision was made." Id. Petitioner requests the court give him a seven-month sentencing credit. Id. at 9.

         II. Discussion

         A. Standard of Review

         Under established local procedure in this judicial district, a careful review has been made of this petition pursuant to the Rules Governing Section 2254 Proceedings for the United States District Court, [1] the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), Pub. L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214, and other habeas corpus statutes. Pro se complaints are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys. Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978). A federal court is charged with liberally construing a complaint filed by a pro se litigant to allow the development of a potentially meritorious case. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). In evaluating a pro se complaint, the plaintiff's allegations are assumed to be true. Fine v. City of N.Y., 529 F.2d 70, 74 (2d Cir. 1975). The mandated liberal construction afforded to pro se pleadings means that if the court can reasonably read the pleadings to state a valid claim on which the plaintiff could prevail, it should do so. Nevertheless, the requirement of liberal construction does not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts that set forth a claim currently cognizable in a federal district court. Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 390-91 (4th Cir. 1990).

         B. Analysis

         A state prisoner seeking habeas relief through 28 U.S.C. § 2241 must first exhaust his state court remedies. Although the exhaustion provisions codified under § 2254 are not contained in § 2241, the exhaustion requirement "applies to all habeas corpus actions." Fain v. Duff, 488 F.2d 218, 223 (5th Cir. 1973); see Braden v. 30th Judicial Court of Kentucky, 410 U.S. 484, 490 (1973) (applying exhaustion requirement in 28 U.S.C. § 2241 habeas corpus proceeding). This doctrine, based on principles of comity, requires that, before a federal court will review allegations of constitutional violations by a state prisoner, those allegations must first be presented to the state's highest court for consideration. See Picard v. Connor, 404 U.S. 270, 276 (1976).

         South Carolina law provides, as to certain prison administrative decisions that affect an inmate's sentence, that an inmate may seek review of an SCDC decision from the South Carolina Administrative Law Court ("SCALC"). See Al-Shabazz v. State, 527 S.E.2d 742, 750 (S.C. 2000); see also Slezak v. S.C. Dep't of Corr., 605 S.E.2d 506, 507 (S.C. 2004). These administrative decisions include inmate discipline and punishment, the calculation of an inmate's sentence or sentence-related credits, or an inmate's custody status. Sullivan v. S.C. Dep't of Corr., 586 S.E.2d 124, 126 (S.C. 2003); Al- Shabazz, 527 S.E.2d at 750. Under Al-Shabazz, a petitioner is required to initiate a grievance with SCDC, obtain a final decision, seek review by the SCALC, and then seek judicial review by the South Carolina Court of Appeals before seeking federal habeas review. Al- Shabazz, 527 S.E.2d at 752-57 (discussing the application of the Administrative Procedures Act and the review process); Rule 203(b)(6), SCACR; see also S.C. Code Ann. § 1-23-610(A)(1).[2]

         Petitioner has not shown he exhausted the remedies available to him under state law with respect to his habeas claim. In fact, Petitioner admits he has not pursued any of his administrative and state remedies related to the grounds in his habeas petition. [ECF No. 1 at 6-7]. Because Petitioner has not exhausted his state court remedies, this petition should be summarily dismissed.

         III. Conclusion and Recommendation

         Accordingly, the undersigned recommends that the district judge dismiss the petition in the ...


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